THREE years before the British flag is lowered over Hong Kong for the last time, the Bank of China (BOC) is to get a new status in the territory as a note issuing bank. No protests, please, at this premature display of mainland ownership. The Royal Mint is to get some extra Hong Kong business at the same time. For while the trusty $10 note is not to be part of the BOC repertoire - and has already disappeared from the presses of the Standard Chartered and Hongkong Bank - a new British-made $10 coin is to take its place in the summer. Pragmatic and export-oriented to the last, the departing colonial power is leaving the Queen's head off the new coins, as it has from lower-value pieces. But British in origin the coins will nonetheless be. For most of us, it is the disappearance of the $10 note from our wallets, not the absence of British coinage, that will signal the end of an era. No more wads of green paper to be fished from the pocket and peeled with a flourish. No more convenient small denomination notes to be whisked from a wallet to pay for an ice-cream or a bus fare. For the issuers, inflation has made the $10 note too costly to retain. The cost of replacing millions of expensively printed, high-quality banknotes every 12 to 18 months means they are literally not worth the paper they are written on. The banks say paper money wears out too quickly. Our pockets will be weighed down and worn out with coins.